Today, Myanmar stands at a critical juncture in its history. The escalating losses of the Myanmar military due to the coordinated attacks by resistance forces and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) throughout the country have ignited a pivotal debate, both nationally and internationally, about the country’s future trajectory.
Is Myanmar heading towards fragmentation and chaos? Ye Myo Hein, a prominent Burmese military analyst, claims that the junta is now facing an existential threat. Concurrently, Professor Zachary Abuza of the National War College in Washington, D.C. states that it’s time to begin “planning the postwar future of Myanmar’s military,” recognizing that effective rebuilding is contingent on comprehensive reform of the security sector. Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the weakening Myanmar military faces potential collapse, which, unless carefully managed by both the National Unity Government (NUG) and leading EAOs, could lead “the country to disintegrate into a series of groups, lacking a common enemy, who could easily turn their guns on each other, creating total bloody chaos and completely gutting the remainder of the Myanmar state.”
Meanwhile, editorials in the Japan Times have raised concerns about Myanmar potentially becoming “a failed state.” In contrast, veteran journalist Bertil Lintner argues that despite the Myanmar military’s current weaknesses and opposition gains, a decisive victory by either side remains unlikely due to factors like the resistance’s disunity, the military’s enduring cohesion, and China’s strategic interests, leaving the civilian population to suffer in an unresolved conflict.
Concerns about the fragmentation of Myanmar have historically been raised by Myanmar’s generals as a justification for their rule. A notable example was when Gen. Ne Win overthrew the U Nu government in a coup in 1962, claiming he was seizing power because the country was on the brink of breaking apart. Similarly, before the escalation of concerns about current fragmentation and chaos among political analysts, Myint Swe, the president of the junta’s State Administration Council, issued a warning for the first time in early November. In a National Defense and Security Council meeting, he spoke about the risk of Myanmar’s fragmentation, attributing this risk to the losses of the junta forces.
This warning came a week after the launch of Operation 1027 by the Three Brotherhood Alliance, comprising the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, also known as the Kokang group, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Army. The operation, conducted in northern Shan State along the Myanmar-China border, aimed to combat the junta’s armed forces and allied militias. Similarly, on November 29, Dr. Tu Hkawng, the NUG’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation wrote on social media that if the current crisis in Myanmar is not addressed, the country could divide into two entities: “The Federated States of Myanmar (Ayeyarwaddy) and the Min Aung Hlaing Dynasty Myanmar.” This scenario resembles a less violent separation akin to “South and North Korea.” It considers those in major cities who desire peace and fear urban destruction. Without this separation, a more destructive conflict, potentially devastating cities, seems inevitable, leading to the eventual establishment of “a federal state.”